If you thought you had a lot of clothes to wash before becoming a parent – hold on to your laundry baskets – you haven’t seen anything yet! The average American family washes 8 to 10 loads of laundry each week (which equates to about 50 pounds!) and about 392 loads of laundry over the course of a year. And because newborns tend to have extra-delicate skin, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends washing baby’s clothes and linens even before their arrival. And after baby's arrival? Laundry adds up incredibly quickly, between the dainty onesies, oh-so-tiny socks, crib sheets, swaddle blankets, and mountains of cloth diapers – oh my.
Conventional wisdom says that everything your newborn is going to touch absolutely must be washed in a special detergent formulated for infants. But is baby detergent really necessary, or is it just one more thing clever marketing has invented to drive sales and overcomplicate parenthood? We’ve got the details for you here.
Do I need A Special Laundry Detergent for Baby Clothes?
For many, nothing in the world smells as heavenly as a just-for-baby detergent; it's almost as if your baby’s sweetness has been bottled up and made into an aroma. That said, these sweet-smelling baby detergents are often formulated with caustic synthetic fragrance chemicals that can cause skin irritation, diaper rash, respiratory irritation, hormone disruption, and more adverse health effects.
Related: Is Your Laundry Detergent Toxic?
In many families, laundry needs vary wildly, especially families with newborns and older children, whose dirty laundry often sport grass stains, sweat stains, funky odors, and more regularly. As a result, many families use caustic, heavy-duty detergents for some laundry loads and baby-specific detergents for baby laundry. However, it’s essential to keep in mind that babies come into close contact with much more than strictly their own items. For instance, whether baby is sleepily rubbing her face against your shirt or snuggling into a warm towel after a bath, she’s being exposed to whatever chemicals were in the detergent those items were laundered in. Other families may toss everyone’s dirty clothes into the same load. However, using the same laundry detergent for all isn’t always ideal. Most standard laundry detergents contain harsh chemicals that can irritate a baby's delicate skin. And if you have sensitive skin or are eczema-prone, chances are your little one may react negatively to harsh detergents.
According to Midwife and Maternity Consultant Kathy Fray, "Babies have grown in a womb’s sterile, neutral environment for nine months before being born, and their skin is the thinnest and most delicate it will ever be in their entire lives, except perhaps when they are very old. So yes, it is completely possible that some of the caustic ingredients in regular cheap clothing detergent could irritate their skin."
How to Choose the Best Baby Laundry Detergent
While deciding on a laundry detergent for your baby, check the ingredients list for what the product contains and what it doesn’t. Here are a few specific ingredients to look out for – and avoid – when deciding on a laundry detergent before baby’s arrival:
FRAGRANCE OR PERFUME
The term “fragrance” or “perfume” on a product’s label represents an undisclosed mixture of various chemicals and ingredients added to provide an appealing scent, like the irresistible aroma of many big brands of just-for-baby detergent, for example. To avoid skin irritation, respiratory irritation, hormone disruption, and more, it’s usually best to avoid laundry products that contain these harsh chemicals.
Optical brighteners or optical brightening agents (OBAs) are synthetic chemicals added to standard detergents to make laundry appear whiter and brighter. They don’t actually get clothes any cleaner, but they linger in fabrics long after washing and could cause a reaction. Some optical brighteners are documented carcinogens and hormone disrupters and are highly toxic to marine life.
This toxic chemical is found in many standard detergents. However, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), exposure to 1,4-dioxane may result in nausea, drowsiness, headache, and irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat. When clothing is washed with a detergent containing 1,4- Dioxane, the chemical is readily absorbed through the skin, lungs, and gastrointestinal tract. The EPA has classified 1,4-dioxane as a Group B2, a probable human carcinogen.
The Ecology Works Anti-Allergen Laundry Detergent is Ideal for the Whole Family
Instead of buying just-for-baby laundry detergent, many parents purchase laundry detergent that’s effective and gentle enough to use on the whole family’s laundry, a detergent that is hypoallergenic, plant- and mineral-based, and fragrance-free, such as The Ecology Works Anti-Allergen Laundry Detergent. This family-friendly detergent is perfect for all laundry, which makes for less laundry-separating, and takes into account the fact that baby snuggles on your clothes as well.
The Ecology Works detergent gets baby’s clothes super clean and fresh without irritating sensitive skin. This hypoallergenic, 100% biodegradable, plant- and mineral-based product is free of dyes, fragrance, enzymes, chemical brighteners, and bleach. While some gentle laundry detergents lack the power to tackle stains, The Ecology Works Anti-Allergen Laundry Detergent works great on spit-up stains, milk spills, diaper blow-outs, baby food stains, and more.
The Ecology Works laundry detergent leaves baby’s clothes feeling soft and cozy–no additional fabric softener required. Plus, its gentle cleansing action removes common indoor allergens from household washables. Our detergent is recommended by allergists and dermatologists and is gentle for delicate skin, especially if baby has eczema, extra-sensitive skin, or skin irritation.